Today, Robin Hustle wrote a blog-piece for Jezebel entitled “How to tell your parents you’re a prostitute.” Of course, my interest was peeked. My first reaction was to the stereotypical photo used to compliment the blog: black, tall heels. The picture that has been engrained in our heads by Pretty Woman.
I am choosing to respond to this piece not out of a place of judgment for Ms. Hustle. In fact, I admire her confidence, self-awareness, and comfort in who she has grown up to be — an artist, a daughter, a prostitute. Not many people can achieve the seemingly confident, self-aware, comfortable state of mind and being like Robin displays in this blog.
With that being said, I find her blog to epitomize the dangers of a) referring to prostitution as sex work b) telling the story in the way that she did with no consideration of “the other side.” Robin Hustle had the fortunate opportunity to grow up with two very loving and supportive parents. Sure, they were awkward and in denial a little bit about her sexuality and then her chosen “profession,” but Robin notes how grateful she is for her parents support. She discusses the rationale behind choosing to be a prostitute — it was to be able to focus on what she really loved doing — art & writing, which we all know is not a lucrative career path to journey down. She was able to step back and assess her life and balance her dreams with paying the bills. She spoke of the men she had sex with with endearment and portrayed them as healthy transactions. She did mention she felt a little uncomfortable or afraid a few times, but overall, she considers her profession to be safe and healthy. In fact, she was “pissed” when her dad mentioned that he can only picture prostitution as exploitative. Her response to this goes something like this “me, of all people, c’mon dad. I’m not like that.” Okay what did she actually say? “You’ve known me for 28 years. When have I ever struck you as someone who would choose a demeaning profession?”
Well Ms. Hustle, it is a demeaning profession for most involved. You grew up exploring your love for art, writing, and talking about complex philosophical concepts with your loving dad. But did you know that the average age of entry into prostitution is 12 to 14. Think about the conversations you were having, the activities you were partaking in, and the love you experienced at that age. Now imagine millions of young girls across the globe being forced to sell their innocent, still developing bodies for sex. Think about the men who purchased sex from you and stop and wonder if they purchased sex from a minor the week before. You brush off Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin’s research but they, along with Melissa Farley and Gloria Steinem, have spoken to tens of thousands of women and girls in prostitution. They have used sound research methods to report the extreme and extensive violence that takes place in the commercial sex trade, primarily at the hands of the johns — men who purchase sex. They have helped determine the average age of entry. They have established the pattern that pimps and traffickers prey on vulnerable girls — those who grew up without loving parents like yours, Ms. Hustle, those who grew up fearing the next time they were going to be sexually and/or physically abused, those who grew up living off of less than $1 to $2 a day. So many of these girls are given heroine, crack cocaine, meth — all to sustain them in the ‘industry’ and maintain compliance to continue to earn a profit for their pimp.
Just because you, Ms. Hustle, did not have a pimp because you were able to enter the sex trade of your own volition and you can remain in that industry so long as it “suits you,” and provides you with enough income that your pocket does not mean you are the norm. Telling your story did not imply you were trying to say your situation as a prostitute — or sex worker as you prefer — is the norm. But when you scoffed at the idea that you could be exploited, you not only separated yourself from those who are victimized in the sex trade every day but you put yourself above them. You spoke from a place of pure privilege — which is unavoidable most of the time — but you take that privilege for granted and refuse to face it and check what that means in the face of other realities. Your reality is quite frankly not the norm, Ms. Hustle. Trying to portray the sex industry by your lifestyle negates the violence, exploitation, and trauma that millions of girls are experiencing globally. By saying, “I’m not exploited. I’m not in a demeaning profession” and implying that therefore that is the true image of the sex trade is like saying “well the middle class and rich exists so who really cares about the poor.” Though Romney and Ryan try and plant that seed, I’m not letting it bloom and nor should you. It is extremely selfish, ignorant, and dangerous. It feeds into the flawed dialogue that prostitution should be legal because it’s not all that bad and women should be able to freely choose their profession.
Although I am thrilled that you have spent the past decade making substantial money, following your dreams and doing what you love, all while staying healthy and seemingly happy. I am not thrilled that you’ve tainted yet another person’s image of prostitution. It is not a healthy, safe, happy profession. THAT is the REALITY.